This Week in Ford Racing April 1, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus, will head to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend leading the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings by 155 points over...
This Week in Ford Racing
April 1, 2003
NASCAR Winston Cup
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus, will head to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend leading the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings by 155 points over teammate Kurt Busch. Kenseth was one of this week's guests on the NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference.
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WHY IS IT SOME GUYS WHO GREW UP RUNNING ON TRACKS THE SIZE OF MARTINSVILLE HAVE PROBLEMS DOING WELL THERE?
"Martinsville, for some reason, is very difficult at least for me to be consistent. We started doing better there before they ground the track, but now with the track being grounded it's very different than what it was before that. Martinsville is just a really, really difficult track. It's very difficult to pass. It's very, very small for how big our cars are and it's way, way too small to have 43 cars on it and it's just tough to pass. You get 43 cars lined up and they're pretty much running around that whole race track. It's just a tough environment. For how big and heavy our cars are and how much power they have, it's just not enough room to really maneuver and be able to get around people very good."
WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES YOUR PIT CREW CLICK AND PERFORM SO WELL?
"It's the same as any other sport or business or hobby or anything that you want to learn to do. There are certain things like golf that I can never figure out, but, in general, if you're halfway good at something you basically get back what you put into it. I think those guys put as much effort and as much work and as much dedication into it as anyone else. They want to be the best. If they're struggling, they'll be out there and they'll practice every single day. They just work really hard at it and they take a lot of pride with it."
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU HAD TO COME BACK TO PIT ROAD DUE TO A LOOSE LUGNUT OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT?
"You shouldn't have gone there (laughing). Knock on wood, we haven't had any major problems. We haven't had perfect stops all year long by any means. We've had some problems here and there, but the potential is there to be the best. On Sunday we had really awesome stops all day long and we had a miscue on the last stop that took us from fourth or fifth to 13th, so that hindered us a little bit at the end of the race. Everybody is gonna have bad days and good days and everybody is gonna have great stops and good stops and, once in a while, they're gonna have a bad one. They're human just like anyone else. It's not like we're perfect every time I come down pit road, but they work really hard at it. They try to eliminate the big, fatal mistakes, which has been good. Everybody is gonna make mistakes that might cost you some spots on pit road, but, knock on wood, we haven't had any bad things happen like leaving a wheel loose and having to come in and lose a couple of laps or anything like that."
ARE YOU SURPRISED AT HOW THE TWO NEW GUYS HAVE FIT IN ON THE PIT CREW?
"I might be a little bit surprised, but not really that much. Practice has been good this winter and they've really worked hard. Robbie and Andy, our pit stop coach, did a great job of getting those guys to work out and to practice, and to work on the mental aspect of doing it. So I had a lot of confidence that they were gonna be good and they've been doing a great job. I can see them all mature every week and get better as a group each and every week. I think in the next few weeks we're gonna be a lot more consistent than what we are right now."
HOW HAS KURT'S SUCCESS AFFECTED YOU AND VICE VERSA?
"He's hard to beat. He cost us a win because we ran second to him (laughing). It hasn't affected us in a negative way. I think it's affected Roush Racing and especially our building in a positive way. When Jimmy (Fennig) moved across the street to where the 97 and 17 shop is and Kurt got in there and started running good, it seemed like the people in the building clicked maybe more than what they did before. They work really well together. With Jimmy and Robbie both being from the same neck of the woods up here in Wisconsin, they seem to work really well together and relate really well together. That helps both Kurt and I because we're the benefactors from those guys working so good together and figuring out what our cars need to go fast."
HAVE YOU NOTICED A CHANGE IN KURT'S DRIVING STYLE AND HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE HIM AS A DRIVER TO YOU?
"I think that Kurt and I are a lot different drivers. We seem to be able to drive fairly close to the same setup, but I think our driving style is a lot different. More than anything with Kurt, I've seen Kurt mature a lot. When I saw Kurt race in the Truck Series with Greg Biffle, those two were both wide-open all the time. When he first got to the Winston Cup Series, he was like that, too. He would run really fast, but he made some mistakes and wrecked some cars. So I've seen him mature a lot. He hasn't really slowed down, he's just more consistent and makes smarter decisions. He's there at the end of the race and runs hard when he needs to run hard, so I've seen him mature a lot just over the last year. Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle probably have the most raw talent of any drivers that I've ever been around or ever seen. It's pretty cool to watch. You see Kurt as much as he's maturing and with all the natural ability and talent he has, I've always said that when he gets smarter and more mature, he's gonna be really, really difficult to beat. We're seeing that after looking at the end of last year and the beginning of this year."
JACK ROUSH SAID THAT HE WOULD CONTINUE TO EXPERIMENT WITH ENGINES IN AN ATTEMPT TO BETTER THE PROGRAM EVEN AT THE EXPENSE OF BLOWING ONE. HOW DOES THAT AFFECT YOU?
"The honest answer to that question is I don't know. I do know that quote is probably blown a little bit out of proportion. For example, I don't think we take some piston that we know is a lot lighter than the other one and just throw it in the motor and go run it and see if it's gonna live. We don't do any of that. Everything is durability tested up in Michigan. They've got dynos where they can run a lap at Michigan. They'll sit there and have it run 500 miles and then take it apart and look at it. Then they'll run it again. A lot of times, they'll run stuff until it does blow up so they can see how long it will run and then they check all the parts. There's a big process that stuff goes through at the engine shop and in the dyno rooms before it ever gets to our race cars. There may be parts on our cars that have been tested for a long time in Michigan that they think is better before we'll bring it to the race track and then we'll try it at the race track for the first time, but, pretty much, everything they put in an engine is well tested and checked before we get it in the car."
DO YOU FIND THE TEAM GAINS MOMENTUM WITH EACH WEEK YOU'RE IN THE POINTS LEAD?
"I don't know. I haven't seen any real change in attitudes or change in our approach with the way we've done everything since the year has started. We've done a couple things this year that have made the process better for figuring our cars out and getting things done to make us run better, but I don't think going from Rockingham to now we've changed our approach or our attitudes or anything like that."
DO YOU CONSIDER THE GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT ABOUT RACING TO THE CAUTION NOW NULL AND VOID?
"No, I think every case is different. I think if Jeff Gordon would have been leading and Jimmie Johnson would have had a problem and been back a quarter of a straightaway that he certainly would have let off and let Jimmie Johnson have his lap back. I think every case is a little different. I've seen races in the past, like I said, where the second-place car has passed the leader coming to the line just to take advantage of it because maybe there was only 15 laps to go in the race to try to get himself up front and they left him out front. Like I said, I haven't really seen the race on TV yet. I don't really know what went into the decision or how it was made or what all went on there. I never saw Jeff coming. If I would have seen him coming, I would have raced him back. Like I said, every case is different. I don't think you're gonna see as many people giving people laps back as what you saw maybe in 1998 when Jeff won 10 races and Mark won seven. They won the majority of the races and they let a lot of people have their laps back because they knew they could beat them. Whereas today, it's so much more competitive. If you let somebody get their lap back and they get their stuff right and, through pit position or something get in front of you, they might end up beating you at the end of the day."